My last trip out of Santiago was for Thanksgiving weekend with 20 or so of my friends to San Alfonso del Mar, aka, the WORLD’S LARGEST SWIMMING POOL!!! In order to swim in said pool, you must rent an appartment at their resort. So we did and we all brought a Thanksgiving dish to share. I brought the pumpkin pie and the pumpkin cheesecake and everyone else brought stuff, most of it not so traditional and most of it carbohydrate loaded: a corn dish, mashed potatoes, stuffing, mac and cheese, and salads. The food wasn’t anything compared to the Thanksgiving feast that I had with some other friends on the actual Thanksgiving day, but it didn’t matter because I was happy to spend some time with my Teaching Chile friends for one last time before I head on home. The pool is amazing. It is right on the beach and since the beach is not safe to swim in due to strong waves and currents that suck you right out there, they built a huge pool that you can ride sail boats in, paddle boats, kayaks, and well, swim of course. Technically, you are only supposed to swim in these little sectioned off places that are the size of a normal pool but that was no fun and there was no one around to tell us we couldn’t do it, so we all swam around the glorious gigantic pool.
Last weekend, we had a TeachingChile reunion party on the roof of Bruce’s apartment.(one of the program directors) It was a lot of fun to see some of the people that I hadn’t seen for quite some time. We had some amazing food including burritos (don’t worry Tom, they were good but they don’t compare to the ones you make!) chips and guacamole, veggies and dip, and strawberry skewers. I ate so much! And we had some delicious beer and wine too. Three of the guys brought instruments-a guitar, a mandolin, and a charango and they were playing all sorts of songs and singing and creating such a great atmosphere. The party was only supposed to go until 7 but many people including myself stayed until 10:30 (when the beer finally ran out) because we were having such a good time. Adrienne and I were singing songs with the musicians and everyone was sharing teaching and travel stories. A good time was had by all!
So my school had an English Day! It was a lot of work but very fun! Danielle and I made signs, set stuff up, and I created a treasure hunt in English for a few lucky students. The younger ones had so much fun! They were running all over the school finding clues. We also had an “El Bosque’s got talent” show where 6 girls performed songs in English. Everyone’s favorite was Carolina, who was Lady Gaga and performed “Bad Romance” wearing an awesome outfit and well let’s just say that I can’t look at this girl without thinking of her performance anymore. I included pictures of my favorite classes: the seniors and the kinders! I’m really going to miss them all so much!
These are a few pictures from my recent adventures in Chile. One is a hike I did with some awesome people who got to Chile in July. The others are views from apartments and the cápsula de los mineros. They had it on display by the Moneda Presidential Palace. I went with my roommate Roberta to see it. It was pretty incredible to see it in person. I didn’t wait in line to get my picture taken next to it though because the line was wayyy too long.
These are a few photos from my awesome trip to Pucón (for the second time) with my friends Tiffany, Allison, Sarah, and Donny, who are all in TeachingChile with me. We rented a car, and drove for like 10 hours South to my favorite place in Chile, Pucón, stopping briefly in Talca for a giant churrasco sandwich and at the Salto del Laja waterfall on the way back. We had a ton of fun enjoying the outdoorsy way of life in Pucón. We went on a 15 kilometer hike to some partially frozen lakes, got to see the smoking volcano, went to some sweet hot springs (termas as they are called) and saw some of the best stars I have seen in my life (besides Colorado of course). It was muy divertido.
On our second full day in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, we decided to take a tour arranged with our hotel with a really nice young tour guide named Ernesto. He took us the only way we could possibly go to the ancient town of Ollataytambo: on bikes. Since there was a strike, all the roads were closed to anything with a motor, so bikes were the only way to get by and travel a significant distance. Pretty sure it was the longest bikeride I have ever been on and my bum had never been so sore when we were done. We traveled on the highway for part of the ride and over dirt/gravel roads for the other part. We got to see a lot of the town of Urubamba and the countryside in between Urubamba and Ollataytambo. There were bulls just hanging out by the train tracks we rode along and hardly any people. When we arrived at the town of Ollataytambo, we got to tour the ancient Inca ruins that are from the time of Machu Picchu and although not quite as awesome as Machu Picchu, I was glad that I got to see them! Our tour guide knew a lot of the history and told us what all of the ruins used to be, and about the people who lived there. Ollataytambo was in a way, a sort of fortress to protect the entrance to Machu Picchu and the actual town that is still inhabited is built up from the original foundations that the Incas had built way back in the day. After our tour of the ruins, we went to the main plaza and had a delicious freshly squeezed fruit juice. When we left, it was starting to rain, but somehow, we rode fast enough on our bikes to outrun the storm. On the way back to Urubamba, we passed lots of adorable children who didn’t have school due to the strike and were out playing in the street (there weren’t any cars driving on it to cause any danger) who would all greet us with a friendly “hola” and huge smiles, which was one of the highlights of the trip for me. Before we got back to Urubamba, Ernesto took us to his tiny home town and brought us to a place where they make the alcoholic drink “chicha” and raise guinea pigs. Ernesto explained to us how chicha is made with corn, a very important peruvian staple crop and he also explained the gory details of how a “cuy” or guinea pig is prepared to cook and eat. Quite interesting, not a food that I really wanted to try, but I respect that we all have our different delicacies foods, right? When we returned from our bike ride, we had just a few hours before we had to be on the road to try and catch our bus. Luckily, the roads were open so we went back to Cuzco that night. The only problem was that our bus wouldn’t leave because there was one town on the way back to Arequipa that was full of crazy people on strike who absolutely wouldn’t let any vehicles pass so Tom and I decided to stay in Cuzco at a cheep hostal that night and catch an early and very expensive flight back to Santiago in the morning. And that is what we did.
After a very refreshing stay in a very nice hotel called El Tambo Del Inca, Tom and I found out that it would not be possible for us to get to Machu Picchu at all during our quite expensive visit to Perú. We were very disappointed because people usually don’t go to Perú and not see Machu Picchu, it is one of the new wonders of the world, anyways! But we decided to see what we could see. The problem was that we couldn’t go anywhere by car or by train because all the road and railroads were blocked because the Peruvian farmers decided to have a paro (strike) for just 48 hours- the 48 hours we had planned to go to Machu Picchu. Talk about bad timing! So, the only way we could see anything besides our hotel was on foot, horse, bike, or motortaxi. A motortaxi is basically a motorcycle with a covered back seat for two. Pretty sweet little ride! The first day, we went for the motortaxi and foot. We hailed a motortaxi cab with help from the hotel gate guard and negotiated a price with the taxi driver for a tour of the town and a few nearby attractions. Our taxi driver, Luis, ended up being a great tour guide even though that was not his job. He was pretty knowledgeable since he was from Urubamba and took us on some back roads to our destinations. We first went to see some old adobe houses. Then we drove through the town, all very bumpy and narrow dirt roads with a quick stop at the church to park at his house and walk to see las salineras de maras, which is one of the least visited though quite fascinating tourist destinations in Perú. To get there, we hiked for a few hours there and back. The salineras are where salt is extracted from the earth, quite an interesting process. I was able to witness it firsthand and now have a much greater appreciation for salt. These salt wells, as they are called in Spanish (pozos) have been passed down through generations and the ones we saw have been going for centuries. Basically, each family has a number of salt wells that are around four or five feet wide by 10 feet long (más o menos) and they irrigate them and when the water evaporates, it leaves a layer of salt which the workers step on to loosen and break up so they can pan it out. Tom and I were able to witness this all firsthand. Luis our tour guide got us up close and personal with an old woman and what must have been her grandson who were both working on one of their salt wells. It was difficult work and all for so little money. We leaned that every month or so, one of the wells can produce a certain amount of salt and that each 50 kilo bag of salt earns 6 soles. That is over one hundred pounds of salt earning a person a little over two dollars. Wow, now we understand why salt is so cheap when we buy it at the store. Luis took us back to our hotel safely and we paid him what we thought was a fair amount for someone who isn’t even really supposed to be a tour guide at all. It was definitely a day where I learned what it is like to be Peruvian. Hard work for little money, frequent strikes, lots of ancient beauty surrounding you but a positive attitude through it all.
So in the morning, and I mean the morning like 6 AM we arrived in Cusco, Perú, after a long hot bus ride. I was so glad to finally get off the bus when we arrived because I was feeling awful. I hadn’t had enough water with me and I think something I had eaten the day before hadn’t been such a good idea and I was hot and just wanted some fresh air. So we got off, haven’t the slightest idea where we are or where we want to go so early in the morning, but decide to just take a cab to the Plaza de Armas, figuring that is probably the center of town as it almost always is in Latin America. It turns out we were right and that was the place to be. We wandered around for a bit, hungry and in desperate need of a bathroom until a very nice lady found us and asked us if we needed a place to stay. No, I said, just a baño! She ended up taking us to a restaurant, most likely the only one open at that hour and it had a clean baño and a good breakfast. I had some coca tea (what everyone drinks when they feel the effects of Cusco’s high altitude) and after a while, I felt much better. Tom and I walked around admiring the city and searching for some more inexpensive gifts for people at the artisan markets. After awhile, we decided that we just wanted to get to our hotel and rest so we found a very cheap bus for only 3 nuevo soles each (1 buck each) that took 1 1/2 hours to get us to our hotel. Our hotel was located in the Sacred Valley in a town called Urubamba which is on the way to Machu Picchu. The plan was to do Machu Picchu either then next morning or the day after that. Little did we know, that was not going to be possible….